In my last blog, Child’s Play, I talked about Children’s books, a subject I know I’ll return to here in the future. This week I want to jump ahead a few years to Harry Potter. My younger son was eight when the first book was published and he is still fan, as am I. We both loved the books, as did a whole lot of other people! J.K Rowling’s story is an amazing one. Talk about being transported! What a magnificent feat to create an amazing world that speaks to so many.
When Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released, my older son, then eleven, had recently announced that he no longer liked to read. He is now an academic and reads quite a bit, all non-fiction and much of it well beyond my mental grasp! But at the time his declaration, of course, broke my book nerd’s heart.
So, I was thrilled to have Harry Potter to read with my younger son. We read together every night, each of us taking a page. I don’t remember how long that lasted, but I know it wasn’t much past the first book. He was getting older and the books were exciting. We both realized we could read more quickly if we read alone. But we continued to read at a similar pace (at least for a while) so we could talk about them together.
I’ve thought about what made Harry Potter so appealing beyond the magical creatures and exciting adventures. Is it the age-old struggle and question of good vs. evil and the many characters in the book that embody elements of both? Or the empathy engendered for Harry’s traumatic early losses and difficulties, leading us to cheer for him as he escapes to the exciting world of Hogwarts with the opportunity to learn and grow and become great. Or the relationships, human and otherwise, that explore issues of loyalty, love, trust, loss and betrayal.
Fantasy worlds seem to hold a special power over us. When I was young those worlds were found in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (J. R. Tolkien.) and The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis.) I was as unsettled by them as I was enthralled. And I have that same dichotomy of feelings with Harry Potter. They are fantasy worlds, to be sure, but there is much reality and truth at the core.
Many books and movies later, on a trip to London, we rode the Underground to King’s Cross station and Platform 9 3/4. Yeah, a silly touristy thing to do, but meaningful still. There is something delightful about being able to place yourself inside the story. I experienced the same feeling walking the streets of Oxford, familiar to us both from both our love of Harry Potter and the British TV series Lewis or seeing Highclere Castle where Downtown Abbey was filmed. When a story transports you in your mind, it can be fun to physically transport yourself there as well.
And for me, it was a trip down memory lane, back in time to when my son was curled up next to me, reading that first Harry Potter book. For all parents of eight-year olds now, I’ll say something terribly cliched: Savor and cherish the time. Because it really does go by much too quickly. And never be shy about enjoying Children’s’ books. They can hold wonderful treasures for any age.
Are you a Harry Potter fan? Are there other Middle Age or Young Adult books have you enjoyed as an adult?